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Cant, Joseph Nicholas brother of Charles William Cant shown on WWI Panels

Trumpeter 3491

5th Dragoon Guards


 Joseph Nicholas Cant was born on the 9th of September 1875 ( this date is given on his school admission form) He was the second son and one of five children born to John Cant and Mary nee McCarthy. The two youngest children, both girls died in infancy. John Cant was employed as a zinc worker.

On the 1881 census the family were living in St Catherine’s Road, Kensington, a road designated black on Charles Booth’s poverty map of London which indicated the lowest class and vicious criminals.

A writer in the Daily News at the time described the area in an around St Catherine’s Road as worse than anything he had ever seen anywhere in London, “the hopeless degradation and abandonment in this wretched place.” The Vestry of Kensington felt that they had been assumed to be indifferent to the plight of the poor in the area and responded by saying that the streets were clean, and the sewerage satisfactory but that such defects as did exist were of constant recurrance in houses occupied by the lowest class and are largely brought about by the dirty and careless or mischievous habits of the people themselves

On the 12th of March 1883 Joseph was admitted to the Saunders Road school in Hammersmith. Joseph was admitted to Beechholme on the 23rd of December 1887 with his younger brother from the Britten Street workhouse. It is likely that their father was out of work or sick at this time and he died in 1890 at the age of thirty-six.The next of kin given in 1890 was Joseph's mother Mary of 56, Elm Street, Camberwell.

Joseph was discharged from the school on the 19th of February 1891 and attested the following day to the army, the 5th Dragoon Guards at Aldershot. He was aged fifteen and his occupation was given as musician. He had previously been rejected by the military as being unfit for Her Majesty’s service as being under height. He had by February 1891 attained the height of 4 feet 7 inches! He weighed 72 pounds having a fresh complexion with light brown eyes and dark brown hair. He had a mole on his chest.

His next of kin was given as his mother but her whereabouts were unknown. It also states that his older brother John was serving with the Middlesex regiment and his younger brother Charles was in Beechholme. Permission was requested and received from the Board of Guardians for his enlistment in the army band, and he was appointed Bandsman on the 12th of July 1891. Throughout his military career he had one minor blot on his copybook which was that he was drunk on the 28th of December 1900 and as such was deprived of his Bandsman rank.

Joseph saw service in India from September 1893 until July 1896 and again from September 1897 until October 1899 from whence the regiment were sent to South Africa.

The Dragoons work in the Boer War has been well documented in other soldiers stories.

Joseph was invalided to England on the 20th of October 1901. It is unknown whether this was through sickness or whether he had been wounded.

He was awarded the Queens South African medal with Transvaal and Defence of Ladysmith clasps.

Joseph remained in England and he was discharged in February 1903 at the end of his period of engagement at Canterbury. His character on discharge was very good.

Joseph re-enlisted on the 25th of April 1903 at Dover Castle. He was then aged 27 years and his occupation was given as musician. He was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 133 pounds. He enlisted into the Royal Garrison Artillery but was transferred to the Middlesex regiment. He was discharged at his own request on the 30th of January 1911.

By this time he was married having married Edith Baker in 1902 at St Peters Folkestone and the couple had one child.

On the 1911 census the family were living at 52, Grange Avenue, Finchley and Joseph was working as a tram conductor. 

He re-enlisted once more on the 16th of November 1915 at Romsey. This time into the remount squadron of the Army Service Corps. He was 39 years old at this time. He was promoted to Corporal on the 1st of January 1916 and was finally discharged from the army on the 28th of April 1916 as being no longer physically fit for war service.


Death Cert J N Cant Boer War

This is Joseph’s death certificate obtained from his army service records.

It states that he died on the 13th of January 1948 at St Bartholomew’s hospital Rochester. He was 72 years of age. His occupation was given as army pensioner and he had been living at “Hilltop”, Thomas Road, Sittingbourne. The informant was J.A. Read his son in law of the same address. The cause of death was cardiac failure with pulmonary oedema and malaena (bleeding from rectum), duodenal ulcer.

Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES :- Ancestry,  Find My Past, British History Online.  

Last updated: Aug 2016

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Chance, James Arthur

Private 6380

2nd Royal West Surrey (Queens) Regiment


James Arthur Chance was born on the 13th of July 1882 and baptized on the 5th of November the same year at St Luke’s Chelsea. He was the son of James and Hannah nee Mayho.

James’ father was some twenty-three years older than his mother and had been married before. There were two older children from this second marriage. James' father was employed as a labourer.

On the 1881 census a year before James was born, the family are living at Masons Grove in Fulham with the grandparents.

By the time of the next census in 1891 all three children are in Beechholme (Kensington and Chelsea District School) and James’ father is incarcerated in the Chelsea Workhouse where he is described as a widower. There is no record of a death for James’ mother within the area in the preceding ten years.

The Poor Law records show that the father and his children were admitted to Britten Street workhouse in 1886 and from here the children, James included, were admitted to Beechholme on the 23rd of December 1886 but their father must have tried valiantly to keep his children with him as there are further admissions and discharges for all of them after 1891. James senior was finally admitted in 1898 and sent to the workhouse infirmary where he died.

James was discharged from the school on the 23rd of January 1894 to the workhouse. His service records have luckily survived and reveal that he enlisted on the 6th of March 1900 in London. His age was recorded as 18 years and 8 months. He was five feet six inches tall and weighed 126 lbs and his occupation was given as bricklayer. He had hazel eyes and brown hair and a scar on his right forearm. His older brother Thomas is named as his next of kin and he is serving with the East Lancashire regiment as a drummer.

James  regiment embarked for South Africa within a few weeks of the onset of war. The regiment along with the East Surreys, Devon and West Yorkshire regiments formed part of the 2nd brigade of the 1st division. They trained together but it soon became apparent that the training had not been appropriate for dealing with the Boers, who knew the ground and were expert guerrilla fighters.

The Siege of Ladysmith, in the Orange Free State began on the 9th of November 1899 and the Boers were raiding towards the Tugela River, threatening the whole of Natal. The 2nd brigade moved from Pietermaritzburg to Frere and the Queens' first engagement was the attack on the village of Colenso on the 15th of December. This was part of the period known as the “Black Week” of British defeats.

The battalion  was ordered to advance over flat open country in open order. The Boers in well prepared positions put all the British artillery out of action by accurate fire. The Queens supported by the East Surreys managed to gain the village, but were then ordered to withdraw having lost 100 men. For a further month the troops remained in camp watching the Boers strengthen their defences on the other side of the Tugela River.

The river was crossed eventually on the 1st of January and on the 20th two companies of the Queens were ordered to make a frontal assault on a Boer position in order to cover a flanking movement by other units. The result was not good for the battalion as one officer was killed and three of the remaining five were hit. Lieutenant Smith, being hit in the chest, still managed to lead his men until he fell. He crawled into cover and managed to sketch the enemy positions before dragging himself back to where the company was taking cover.

            Colenso James Arthur Chance

Ever since Colenso the Boers had been constructing a defensive position four north of the Tugela River which blocked the route to Ladysmith. It was taken in a battle that lasted eleven days beginning on the 17th of February. The Queens objective was a feature known as Monte Cristo. It was captured at the points of bayonets. Ladysmith was eventually entered  four months after the siege began, on the 3rd of March 1900.

After two months rest the Queens were joined by their volunteer company. With the East Surreys they then helped to drive the Boers from the Biggersberg range of mountains and fought a brisk action to capture Allemands Nek. For the rest of the war the two battalions were made responsible for guarding lines of communication and ended up marching for many miles on outpost duty.

James was awarded the South African medal with Orange Free State and Transvaal clasps.

At the end of 1902 James was transferred to the 1st Royal West Surrey regiment and with them served in India. Thereafter he was transferred to the army reserve in 1908.

James married Edith Harris in the March quarter of 1911 in the Greenwich registration district.

When the 1911 census was taken the couple were living in Tewksbury, Gloucestershire. James is described as being a chauffeur and army reservist.

The couple had several children together. The 1939 register shows James and his wife living at 76, Grove Avenue, Wood Green. His occupation was given as a storekeeper, maintenance.

James died in Edmonton in 1942 aged 59.

His brother Thomas is not listed on either of the two Boer War panels held by the Banstead History Research Group, but he also survived the Boer War.

Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES :- Find My Past,  Ancestry,  Archives and History of the Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment, Anglo Boer, Wikepedia,  Map of Colenso available online.

Last updated: 20 Aug 2016

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Chapman, William

Private 17718

Army Service Corps

 William Chapman was born on the 24th of February 1877 at Kensington according to his army service records. He was baptized at St Clement Notting Hill on the 20th of October 1878 at the same time as his younger sister Elizabeth.

William was the oldest of four children born to William Chapman and Amy nee Cattell.

When the 1881 census was taken the family were living at 13, Adela Terrace, Chelsea. This was shared accommodation with three other families. William senior was employed as a labourer. There were three children under the age of five at this time.

Charles Booth described Adela Terrace as a rough road of bricklayers, labourers and washer women. Windows were patched or broken. It was coloured purple on the poverty map designating an area of very poor, casual and chronic want.

On the 23rd of December 1889 according to Poor Law records the children were described as orphans and as such would be sent to the Kensington and Chelsea District schools, two to Hammersmith and two to Beechholme. It would appear that both parents had died in the last quarter of 1889.

On the 1891 census William and his sister Elizabeth were resident in Beechholme.

The two younger children spent some time in the workhouse infirmary before admission to the school. William was discharged to service on the 27th of October 1891 probably as an apprentice baker.

William enlisted on the 10th of January 1901 into the Army Service Corps where his occupation was given as baker. His next of kin was initially given as his younger brother George of the Kensington and District schools but was amended to William’s wife  Mary Levina nee Hatch whom he married in 1907 in the Southampton registration district. They would have two sons.

William’s army records show that his only service was at home in the rank of private. There is no mention of any Boer war service. No Boer war medal entitlement matches the above army number either.

He was discharged by his own choice in 1913.

The 1939 register shows the family living in Southampton and his occupation is master baker.

William died in Southampton General hospital on the 15th of May 1958 leaving £3780 6s 7d to his two sons. His wife had predeceased him.


Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES :-Find My Past,  Ancestry

Last updated:18 Aug 2016

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Collier, Henry (brother to John Edward Collier)

Corporal, Trumpeter 3623

5th Dragoon Guards

Also served with the 7th Dragoon Guards (service number 5659)


Henry Collier was baptized on the 17th of June 1877 at St Simon Zelotes, Chelsea.

He was the second child of six born to Henry and Kate (her maiden name is unknown).

At least two children died in infancy. Henry senior was employed as a bootmaker and was about fourteen years older than his wife.

When the 1881 census was taken the family were living at 16, Keppell Street in Chelsea. The accommodation was shared with two other families. Henry was aged three and his younger brother John was a year old.

Keppell Street was a passage that ran between factories and was designated purple on the poverty map, an area of chronic want.

At some point between 1881 and 1891 Henry senior either died or disappeared as no further trace can be found of him. By 1891 Kate is calling herself a widow. Whatever took place it had a dramatic effect on the family. The two boys were admitted to the Britten Street Workhouse on the 8th of January1885 along with their mother and an infant sister. The two boys were discharged to the Kensington and Chelsea Schools on the 30th October 1885.

Kate was subsequently in and out of the workhouse, at one point being taken into custody having been found drunk and disorderly. What happened to her infant daughter is unknown. Her last known address was in Francis Street, Chelsea where she was employed as a charwoman.

By 1891 both boys are together in Beechholme then known as the Kensington and Chelsea District school.

Henry was discharged from the school to the army on the 26th of September 1891 and attested at Aldershot on the 28th.. His age was given as fifteen and his occupation listed as musician. He was four feet ten inches tall and weighed 75 pounds. He had a fresh complexion, brown eyes and hair. He had no distinguishing marks. Henry was appointed Bandsman on the 13th of December 1891, then Lance Corporal on the 10th of April 1896 and then Trumpeter on the 20th of September 1898.

Henry saw service in India with the Dragoon Guards and was there in 1896 from whence the regiment arrived in Natal before the outbreak of war.

As the 5th Dragoons work in the 2nd Boer war has been told in other soldiers stories it is only necessary to point out that his medal entitlement was the South African medal with Defence of Ladysmith, Transvaal and Orange Free State clasps. Henry was then sent to the 7th Dragoon Guards, service number 5659 and continued the rest of the war with them. He also was awarded the Kings South African medal with 1901 and 1902 clasps. He was invalided to England on the 7th of April 1902. The reason for this is unknown.

On the 5th of May 1903 he was re-engaged for the Corps of Dragoons of the Line and from there he was transferred to the Royal Engineers in the rank of sapper and then to musician on the 1st of October 1907. He was discharged on the 12th of September 1912 at Islington on the termination of his 2nd period of engagement.

Henry had married Amy Elizabeth Adam at Gillingham, Kent on the 19th of July 1907 and the couple had three sons.

When the 1911 census was taken the couple were living at 3, Frederick Road, Gillingham in Kent and Henry was described as a Royal Engineer, musician.

On the outbreak of the First World War Henry once again enlisted into the Middlesex regiment as a driver, he was forty years of age. He requested a transfer to the Royal Engineers Signal Company as he felt he was more suited to that branch of the service as a mounted man having previously served with the Dragoon Guards. The signal company relied on the use of horses for transport and were concerned  with communications.

Henry was described as being sober, reliable and intelligent. He was transferred and promoted to Lance Corporal on the 26th of February 1915. He was then sent with the expeditionary forces to the Dardanelles. He served overseas for the duration of the war incurring at some point a fractured arm. His next of kin was given as his wife, who was by then living at 45, Branley Road, Ealing.

When he was demobbed he was classed as disabled due to the fracture of his arm. The disablement was attributed to war time service and as such he received a weekly pension of 6 shillings (30 new pence) along with 3shillings and 2d for his children.

He died on the 22nd of September 1930 ( the date being given in his army pension records). His wife made an application for a widow’s pension following Henry’s death.

For his service in the Great War Henry was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory medals.

Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES :- Ancestry, Find My Past, The Long, Long Trail

Last Updated 31 Aug 2016 with information from Poor Law Records

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Collier, John Edward (brother of Henry)

Gunner 20751

75th battery Royal Field Artillery


John Edward Collier was born on the 14th of June 1879; this date was taken from the 1939 register and was the third child of Henry and Kate. The story of his early years is the same as his older brother Henry. He was discharged from the school to service on the 25th of November 1893 but the Poor Law records do not state in what capacity. Unlike Henry though he was not a musician and on his attestation on the 24th of June 1897 in London his occupation was given as a labourer. He was eighteen years old and five feet seven inches tall, weighing one hundred and twenty pounds. He had a fair complexion with grey eyes and brown hair. He had a tattoo “JC “on his right forearm and an anchor on his left forearm. He had a scar on his left eyebrow and moles on his chest, neck and back.

His next of kin was given as his brother Harry serving with the 5th Dragoon Guards and also a Mrs Collier of Islington who presumably was his mother.

His service in the Boer War was from the 26th of September 1899 until the 10th of March 1900 when he was invalided home. He was awarded the Queens South African medal with Belmont and Modder River clasps.

The 75th battery of the Royal Field Artillery were, along with the 18th battery the only artillery Lord Methuen had in the actions of Belmont on the 23rd of November 1899 and until late in the afternoon, these were the only two batteries at Modder river on the 28th of November 1899. Both of these actions were part of the advance on Kimberley.

The battle of Belmont saw the first fighting during Lord Methuen’s failed attempt to raise the siege of Kimberley. He had left his base on the Orange River on the 21st of November with a force of around 8,000 men. His plan was to follow the railway straight to Kimberley. This predictability would allow the Boers to take advantage of the few natural obstructions on the route. The first of these obstructions was at Belmont, twenty miles from the Orange River. There the railway ran past a cluster of low hills east of the track. Near to the railway were two peaks (given the name Gun Hill for the southern and Table Mountain for the northern by the British soldiers) Behind them to the east ,separated by a narrow pass or nek was a taller hill given the name Mont Blanc. The main Boer force at Belmont was composed of around 2,000 men from the Free State under Jacobus Prinsloo. Another 800 from the Transvaal, under De la Rey, arrived in time to cover the Boer retreat at the end of the battle.

Methuen based his plan of attack on a faulty understanding of the nature of the hills. He was unaware of the gap between Table Mountain and Mont Blanc. Instead he believed there to be more high ground between the two hills. His plan was for the 9th Brigade to attack Table Mountain and the Guards Brigade to attack on Gun Hill. The Coldstream Guards would then seize the non-existent high ground, while the 9th Brigade would use it to attack the northern flank of the Boer positions on Mont Blanc. They would do this after a night march that would place them at the base of the hills under the cover of darkness.

Boer War Attack at Belmont J. Collier Royal Artillery


Map of the planned attack at Belmont.

A marks British positions at 3.50 am

B marks the British positions at 6.30 am

Green marks the Boer units.

The plan went wrong from the start. At first light on the 23rd of November it was realised that the march had stopped 1,000 yards short of the base of the hills, probably because the British were not yet experienced in the clear air of the veldt. This meant that the assault would have to be made in daylight and after a dash across open ground. Despite this the British soldiers proved that they could make successful attacks up hill against the Boer’s rifle fire. The attack began soon after 3.30 am and by 4.20 the British had reached the top of both Table Mountain and Gun Hill, although not without losses. It would take longer to clear the top of Table Mountain, but the big problem now was posed by Mont Blanc. The 9th Brigade whose role it had been to attack this second position found itself in the wrong place to do so. The western face was the steepest and well defended by the Boers who had time to prepare their positions. Fortunately for Methuen the Coldstream Guards solved his problem. Their original role was to capture the non-existent high ground north east of Gun Hill. When it became clear there was no such ground they drifted right, eventually capturing the southern end of Mont Blanc. With three of the four areas of high ground lost, the Boers decided to withdraw. At around 7.30 am they abandoned their positions on Mont Blanc, returned to their horses and escaped north. This was when Methuen’s lack of cavalry became significant. He could not mount a pursuit of the Boers. British losses were 74 dead and 220 wounded ( the 75th battery had 2 killed and 12 wounded) Boer losses were officially reported at 12 dead and 40 wounded but the British buried 30 Boers found after the battle. Prinsloo was badly shaken by the fighting at Belmont, especially by the determination of the British advance.

Lord Methuen stated that the artillery did very good work both before and during the action.

At Modder River they were invaluable. In his despatch of the 1st of December 1899 he said “ during the entire action the 75th and 18th Batteries had vied with one another in showing gallantry and proficiency”

John married Bertha Florence Prior on the 12th of December 1908 at Woolwich. She was 17, he was 29. He was re-engaged at Aldershot on the 18th of March 1909 and promoted to corporal and rose through the ranks to Bombadier Quarter Master Sergeant.

On the 1911 census  John and his wife were living at Woodland Cottage, Station Road, Aldershot. The couple had one son. His occupation was given as soldier.

John went with the British Expeditionary Force to France from the 9th of September 1914 and he served abroad for the duration of the Great War. He suffered a gun shot wound to his hand but was only hospitalised briefly.  He was discharged from the army on the 20th of August 1920. He was awarded the 1914 Star, British War and Victory medals. He also was awarded the meritorious service medal. The 1939 register shows John and his wife living at 71, Thorpedene Gardens, Southend. His occupation was given as a clerical officer with the Admiralty.

John died on the 24th of May 1947 at the Municipal Hospital, Southend and he left £1646. 8s 5d to his widow.

Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES :- Ancestry,  Find My Past, Wikepedia, Anglo Boer, History of, Map from History of

Last updated: 31 Aug 2016 with information from Poor Law Records.

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Cox, Adolphus Edward

Bandsman, Trumpeter 3699

8th Hussars (Kings Royal Irish)


Adolphus Edward Cox was baptized on the 26th of September 1880 at St Clement, Notting Hill. He was the son of Adolphus and Eliza Rosalie nee West. He had one older sister. His father was employed as a gas fitter. On the 1881 census the family were living at 119, Walmer Road.

Adolphus's father died in 1883 and Adolphus was admitted to Beechholme on the 2nd of September 1890. A note on the records states that he was an orphan. His next of kin was given as his grandmother Mrs. L. Chandler of 12, Manchester Road.

Adolphus enlisted on the 2nd of February 1894 at Kensington. His age was recorded as being 15 years and 6 months and his occupation as musician. He was just over 4 feet 11 inches in height and weighed 83 pounds. He had a fresh complexion with blue eyes and brown hair. He had a scar over his left eye.

Adolphus was appointed trumpeter on the 27th of November 1896. His South African service was brief, from the 14th of February 1900 until the 23rd of May 1900 when he was invalided home after being wounded at Kareefontein on the 22nd of April 1900.

He was awarded the Queens South African medal with Cape Colony and Orange Free State clasps. The wounds had left him lame according to his army service records and he was discharged as being medically unfit on the 31st of December 1900 due to being lame.

His character on discharge was very good. His next of kin was given as a grandmother of Notting Hill.

The 8th Hussars sailed for South Africa in February 1900 arriving at the beginning of March. Along with the 7th Dragoon Guards and the 14th Hussars they formed the 4th Cavalry brigade under General Dickson. They took part in the movement to the south east of Bloemfontein commencing on the 21st of April with the object of clearing the way to Wepener, then besieged. On the 22nd of April the cavalry brigade had to retire under fire of a one pounder Maxim gun (the pom pom) and rifle fusillade.

Lord Roberts writing to the Secretary of State for war dated April 23rd 1900 concerning events of the 22nd of April. “ I dispatched the 11th Division under Pole-Carew and two brigades of cavalry under French yesterday. The Force reached Kareefontein without much opposition

Casualties reported (amongst others)  8th Hussars 1 killed, 1 wounded.

 Adolphus’s Boer War service was over and he was invalided home.

On the 1901 census Adolphus was living with an uncle in 6, Marsh Street, Poplar. He was aged twenty and employed as a gardener. His future wife was the daughter of this uncle and therefore a first cousin.

They married on the 6th of April 1901 at All Saints Poplar.

On the 1911 census Adolphus and Mary were living at 179, Tennyson Road, Stratford. They had four children, the youngest of these died in infancy. Adolphus was employed as a railway clerk.

On the outbreak of World War One Adolphus re-enlisted in the Hussars of the Line Special Reserve. He joined at Bristol on the 21st of August 1914 and was posted to the 10th reserve regiment of the southern cavalry depot.

He was posted as private on the 7th of September 1914 and promoted to Acting Sergeant on the 21st of October 1917. His war service, all completed in England, ended on the 27th of February 1919 when he was transferred to the 2nd army reserve on demobilization. 

His wife Mary died in the June quarter of 1924 and Adolphus remarried that same year in the September quarter in the registration district of Hackney to Edith May Austin.

Adolphus died on the 10th of February 1930 at 3, Bexhill Road, New Southgate, London. He left £419 7s 7d to his widow.


Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES :- Ancestry, Find My Past, Anglo Boer, Memorializing the Anglo Boer War by Valerie B. Parkhouse, courtesy of “Google Books”  

Last updated: 31 Aug 2016 with new information from Poor Law Records.

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Cruse, George Alfred (brother to Walter Ernest Cruse)

Trumpeter 3264

5th Dragoon Guards

Killed in Action Date uncertain Either 1st December 1900 or 1st February 1901 at Howick


LNW 10 March 2016


Age: Twenty-four

George Alfred Cruse was born in September 1876 and baptized on the 20th of February 1878 at St Augustine, Kilburn. He was one of at least five children born to Edward and Louisa nee Beardmore. At the time of George’s baptism the family were living at 8, Pembroke Road and George’s father was employed as a greengrocer.

Charles Booth, the great social reformer of the time, on his poverty map of London marks this road as pink. Roads coloured pink were designated as “fairly comfortable”.

By the time the 1881 census was taken the family have come down in the world and are living at 167, Southam Street, Kensington. They are living in a shared property with six other families and Edward Cruse is employed as a painter. Southam Street is coloured dark blue on the poverty map and was designated “very poor, with chronic want” George’s father died in the first quarter of 1884, he was only thrity years old.

By the 1891 census four of the children including George and his younger brother Walter are resident in Beechholme, then known as the Kensington and Chelsea District School.. There is no further trace of the children’s mother.

The 5th Dragoon Guards known as Princess Charlotte of Wales arrived in Natal, South Africa from India before the war broke out taking part in their first battle in October 1899.

During the northern advance from Ladysmith to the Transvaal the Dragoon Guards were mentioned for their gallant work.

Unfortunately no service records survive for George.

The 2nd Anglo Boer War took place between the 11th of October 1899 and the 31st of May 1902 and was the first international conflict of the 20th century. The war was fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer republics of the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic)

This war which had been declared by the Boers, gave the English, in Kipling’s words, “no end of a lesson”

The war proved to be the longest( two and a half years), the costliest (over £200 million) and the bloodiest (at least 22,000 British, more from disease than killed in the fighting , 25,000 Boers and 12,000 African lives), and the most humiliating for Britain between 1815 and 1914.

After a protracted hard fought war the two independent republics lost and were absorbed into the British Empire.

The crisis in the Transvaal at the end of the 19th century was the culmination of more than 2 centuries of Afrikaner expansion and conflict between Afrikans and the British. The Afrikans were mainly Dutch Calvinist settlers escaping religious persecution who had settled at the Cape of Good Hope where, in 1652 a shipping station had been founded by the Dutch East India Company. The settlers brought with them a tradition of dissent and resentment against Europe. The poorest of them were known as Trekboers or simply Boers and were wandering farmers whose search for land brought them progressively deeper into African territory.

During the Napoleonic Wars the British government took permanent possession of the colony with resentment  by a minority of the Boers who had no wish to submit to British rule. For the next sixty years the British government blew hot and cold in its dealings with the Boers.

Although free republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State were recognized by the British initially, they then annexed the Transvaal . This was reversed in 1881 after a rebellion led by Paul Kruger (the first Boer War) and led to the defeat of the British.  Independence was again restored but with conditions.

In 1895 two multi-millionaires Cecil Rhodes and Alfred Beit conspired to take over the Transvaal for themselves and the Empire. Two great mineral discoveries had turned the political map upside down - the diamond rush to Kimberley on the borders of the Cape Colony in the 1870’s and the gold rush in the Transvaal in 1886. This precipitated  a collision between the Boers and the Uitlanders (the new immigrants, mainly British, swept along by the gold rush). The Uitlanders outnumbered the Boers but by means of a new franchise law the Boers kept them starved of political rights. In 1895 it was the political hunger of the Uitlanders backed by Rhodes and Beit’s millions that seemed to offer the British a chance of taking over the Transvaal once again from the Boers.

And so began the 2nd Boer War into which the 5th Dragoon Guards found themselves fighting on behalf of the British Empire.

We cannot know for sure exactly what happened to George Cruse but we know he was involved in the fighting because he received the South African medal with two clasps, Transvaal and the Defence of Ladysmith.

Ancestry, in it’s Boer War records notes that George was killed in action and his place of death is given as Howick which was in Natal Province about 8.8 kilometres from Durban. There are two different dates given for his death.

We could find no reports of any fighting at Howick specifically but there was a large field hospital sited there so it is likely that he was either wounded and taken to the hospital where he died, or that he died in the hospital of disease.

He was probably buried here as there was a cemetery in the grounds of the field hospital as can be seen in the picture below.

Boer War Field Hospital


Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES :- Ancestry, Find My Past, Wikepedia, “The Boer War” by Thomas Pakenham, Anglo Boer War .com, Photo from the Anglo Boer War website.


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Cruse, Walter Ernest (Brother to George Alfred Cruse) - Story corrected and updated Aug 16

Trumpeter 3797

8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars  


Walter Ernest Cruse was born on the 9th of February 1880 and baptized on the 1st of December 1887 when he was almost six years old, at Christchurch Mission, Kensal Green. He was the youngest son of Edward and Louisa nee Beardmore.

Details of the 1881 census can be found in his brother George’s entry.

Following the death of his father, Walter was admitted to the Branch School from the parish of St Mary Abbotts, Kensington. The Poor Law records for London show the date of his admission as being the 5th of May 1884 and lists his mother Louisa as being a widow and living at 42, Southam Street. He was admitted to the infirmary on the 28th of October 1884. He returned to the branch school on the 2nd of May and was transferred to Beechholme on the 23rd of July 1886.

The Poor Law records reveal another fact in that Louisa deserted and Walter was adopted. Unfortunately the adoptive parents aren’t named and the official date isn’t recorded. The baptism in 1887 is therefore a little curious as it was clearly performed after his school admission.

The 1891 census shows Walter as being resident in Beechholme aged eleven.

Subsequent Poor Law records show that Walter was 'sent out' from the school on the 28th of September 1895 to the 8th Hussars band.

An annual follow up report dated August 12th 1896 states “ his conduct during the previous year has given every satisfaction

There are no surviving army service records for Walter.

The 8th Hussars regiment sailed in February 1900 arriving in South Africa at the beginning of March. Along with the 7th Dragoon Guards and 14th Hussars they formed the 4th Cavalry Brigade.

The 4th brigade took part in the movement to the south east of Bloemfontein, commencing on about the 21st of April 1900 with the object of clearing the way to Wepener, then besieged.

Kareefontein was a farm that had been bought by Jacob Ignatius De Wet the father of  Christiaan Rudolf De Wet the great Boer general, and others in 1876. Jacob De Wet was field cornet, a military officer who had judicial powers enabling him to act as an administrator and magistrate. He had seen the need for a village in this area but an application to establish this was twice declined. In 1880 the village was recognised under the name of Dewetsdorp.

Walter Ernest Cruse Boer War

      Map of the Orange Free State showing Dewetsdorp just above Wepener.

The following is from a telegraphic communication between the front in South Africa and the War Office in London :- Lord Roberts to the Secretary of State for War- Bloemfontein April 23rd 1900 2.50 pm “ Dispatched 11th Division under Pole-Carew and two brigades of cavalry under French yesterday to assist Rundle, the force reached Kareefontein without much opposition. Casualties reported (amongst others) 8th Hussars killed 1, wounded 1”.

As can be seen from the dates Walter’s service in the Boer War was very short, approximately six weeks in total.

He was awarded the South African medal with Cape Colony and Orange Free State clasps.

Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES :- Find My Past,  Ancestry,   Anglo Boer, South African Cape Town Archives (available online),

Memorializing the Anglo Boer War-from Google Books,

last updated 19 Aug 2016

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